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GOP bill would eliminate the Biden ATF's database on gun sales

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Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congressional Republicans have introduced a bill that would eliminate the federal government's database of firearms purchases and prevent the Biden administration from collecting data on gun sales from dealers who go out of business.

The proposed legislation is called the "No Retaining Every Gun In a System That Restricts Your Rights Act" and was introduced by Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas), who said the bill is designed to prevent the federal government from creating a firearms registry.

Cloud filed the bill in response to reports that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is in possession of nearly 1 billion records detailing gun purchases by American citizens. ATF collected this information under a provision of federal law that requires licensed firearms or ammunition dealers to submit records to the Department of Justice when their business is discontinued.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 requires stores that close down to turn over their records of gun transactions for the past 20 years to the federal government, though the Biden administration has sought to remove the 20-year restriction to collect records in perpetuity. Gun rights advocates say this would be the first step toward the development of a national gun registry, which could be abused by the government to interfere with Americans' Second Amendment rights.

"The stakes have never been higher for our Second Amendment rights. We currently have an anti-gun president and ATF collecting firearm records for a national registry with the intent of pushing more firearm restrictions, and potentially even eventual confiscation," said Aidan Johnston, director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America.

"Representative Cloud's legislation is a major step in the right direction to defend our rights and dissolve this unconstitutional registry — every elected official who supports our Second Amendment should get behind it," he added in a statement.

If Cloud's bill becomes law, ATF would be required to "destroy all firearm transaction records" within 90 days. Additionally, sections of federal code requiring out-of-business gun dealers to turn over their records would be repealed. The ATF director would be required to disclose how many records were destroyed to Congress.

"Americans have the constitutional right to keep and bear arms — to protect themselves and their families," Cloud said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon, which first reported his bill.

"This past year we’ve seen the Biden administration increase scrutiny on law-abiding Americans while turning a blind eye to criminals and corruption. The Biden administration's actions have shown their intent to restrict the rights of gun owners across our nation and Congress must oppose them with full force. My bill would delete and dismantle ATF's record keeping, restore privacy for law-abiding American gun owners, and prevent a federal firearms registry from being created."

Last month, ATF disclosed to lawmakers that the agency has 920,664,765 records of firearms sales in a database it has been developing and maintaining since 2006. The records include both digital and hard copy documents, but the vast majority of those records are in a digitized format, ATF said.

"The sole purpose of these systems is to trace firearms used in crimes, which is a valuable crime gun intelligence tool used in thousands of investigations," ATF said in response to an inquiry on the database from Cloud and other Republican lawmakers.

ATF said it was "confident" that the database "does not violate any laws."

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